|credit: MML Sports/Facebook|
British motorsport specialist MML Sports Ltd has announced that it is to take part in the Rally America series for the first time, supplying reigning North American and Canadian Rally Champion Antoine L'Estage with one of its Mitsubishi Lancer World Rally Cars. L'Estage, who holds second place in the 2013 series after two rounds, has already tested the Lancer WRC and is looking forward to more action against reigning Rally America Champion David Higgins (Subaru) and Gymkhana star, Ken Block (Ford).
"This is big news," L'Estage posted on his website. "To take part in rallies at the wheel of a car that has been in the [FIA] World Rally Championship is fantastic and I'm really looking forward to more great battles with Ken Block and David Higgins."
The MML Sports Mitsubishi Lancer WRC has seen competition in numerous countries around the world, since the company was created from the former works Mitsubishi rally team. It has gained a reputation for being a car which drivers are able to become competitive in quickly and is perfectly suited to the Rally America series.
|L'Estage, with co-driver Nathalie Richard, have won STPR |
three times -- 2008, 2010, and most recently, 2012.
The current regulations require very little changes from its existing specification: the series stipulates the same 34mm restrictor as specified by the FIA while the main modification will be the removal of the pneumatic paddle shift gear system, reverting to a fully mechanical shift for the sequential gearbox.
L'Estage tested the Lancer WRC in the Czech Republic at the end of 2012 and was immediately impressed with the performance and handling of the car, which on paper would appear very similar to the Open Class EvoX he had been using. However, the systems which MML Sports developed for the car, in its previous guise as MMSP Ltd, should give the multiple champion - with five North American and five Canadian championship titles to his name - the tools he needs to add another highly competitive series win to his CV.
The program will be the first time a Canadian driver has used a modern WRCar from the WRC and the first time that MML Sports has been involved in rallying in North America. However, MML Sports MD John Easton has some experience of the series, having worked with David Higgins in 2003, when he won the championship with the official American Mitsubishi team.
The company will also support Rifat Sungkar in an Open Class Mitsubishi Lancer EvolutionX, run by John Buffum's Libra Racing operation. This car will use MML Sports' R4 suspension kit, an engine producing close to WRC-specification power and torque and a sequential gearbox. Sungkar is also no stranger to rallying, having won the Group N 'Rally Class' category of Rallye de France in 2012.
MML Sports Managing Director John Easton said he is excited about the agreement with L'Estage.
"I think that with Antoine in the Lancer WRC, David [Higgins] in the Subaru, Ken [Block] in the Fiesta and Rifat in the EvoX, there will be some fantastic action in North America this year," Easton said. "This will be a program of firsts - for us, for Antoine and for Canadian drivers - yet one which is extremely exciting. We know that the Lancer WRC can be extremely competitive from various campaigns around the world and Antoine's credentials are beyond compare, so I am very excited about this Rally America season."
The first event for MML Sports with L'Estage and Sungkar will be the third round of the series, the Oregon Trail Rally over the first weekend of May.